Govt.’s reliance on taped recordings in prosecuting and persecuting Guyanese is phenomenal
In the wake of the 2002-2004 crime sprees, President Bharrat Jagdeo promised to release a copy of a videotaped recording showing ‘certain opposition politicians’ cavorting with Buxton criminal elements.
He would later renege, explaining that he did not want to jeopardize the identity of the informant.
The nation would also learn that convicted drug baron and extra-judicial killing Phantom Squad financier, Mr. Roger Khan, who was instrumental in securing the release of a kidnapped US diplomat, was also behind the bugging of retired Police Commissioner, Mr. Winston Felix’s office telephone.
Oddly enough, when Mr. Khan did release the illegally conducted recordings of Mr. Felix’s phone conversations to media houses, the President ordered Prime Minister Mr. Samuel Hinds to investigate Mr. Felix, instead of ordering an investigation into how Mr. Khan managed to bug the top cop’s office phone.
As time elapsed, observers began suspecting that Mr. Khan was the informant who provided the government with the purported video recording of Buxton criminals and opposition politicians, and that would started the trend of government’s reliance on taped recordings to go after ‘enemies’.
A former senior army officer, Mr. Oliver Hinckson, showed up at an open air meeting being conducted by Georgetown Mayor, Mr. Hamilton Green, and seized an opportunity to make remarks offering himself as a mediator between government and armed criminal elements.
Subsequent to that, Mr. Hinckson met privately with PPP MP, Mr. Anil Nandlall, to elucidate on his remarks, and the next thing we knew was he was arrested on sedition charges and detained for several months before being released without a trial.
Taped recordings of Mr. Hinckson’s remarks, it turned out, would feature prominently in the run-up to his arrest. Video taped recordings were also said to factor into Mr. Mark Benschop’s arrest and detention on treason charges.
Then last year, the Health Ministry was completely gutted in a fire of highly suspicious and controversial origin. The government went public linking it to a Guyanese mastermind in America, purportedly based on either telephone records or telephone interceptions that were recorded.
Several persons of interest in Guyana, including former Chief Magistrate, Ms. Juliet Holder-Allen, were arrested, but while Ms. Holder-Allen was released, other suspects who were detained longer wound up escaping from police lockups.
But the timing of the Health Ministry was not lost on many critics of government who observed it took place simultaneously as information was unfolding in a New York court that named Health Minister, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy as the government official who authorised the purchase of a spy equipment Mr. Khan would later use in Guyana, and the government official whom Mr. Khan telephoned right after unarmed political activist, Ronald Waddell, was gunned down execution style in a hail of gunfire.
Whether the fire was to distract from the testimony in New York is still not known, but now we have the government and its police declaring the arrests of several people, including a current and a former army officer, for conspiring to bring down the government. And the basis of the arrests is the secretly taped recording by an informant of conversations among the arrested.
Given that government has not been successful in criminally prosecuting anyone so far for any alleged crime or wrong doing related to video or audio taped recordings, what exactly is there in the alleged new recordings of conversations that would guarantee the accused suspects will be tried or even given a fair and just trial?
This is why government must release the unedited recordings of the conversations that point to a clear and present danger to national security, or else we, the people, have a right to question whether these latest arrests constitute political persecution instead of principled prosecution.
For example, are these latest arrests timed to coincide with the public’s questioning of government’s embarrassing failure on LCDS or the health threat at La Repentir Landfill that exposes the hypocrisy of government’s concern for the global environment?
Were they designed to distract angry sugar workers from going into 2011 being upset with government and to redirect their attention instead to the ‘usual political enemies of the PPP and government’ as elections draw near? Or is there more than meets the naked eye?
The questions aside, if there is one common denominator in all these taped recordings and even treason or sedition charges it is this: the suspects are mainly Black Guyanese.
And for an Indian-dominated government – engulfed in serious, major criminal corruption and allegedly linked to the infamous Phantom Squad that killed off many Black criminals, criminal suspects and soft targets without recourse to justice – to be going after Black Guyanese on highly suspicious charges, the question of true motivation is in order.
Also, with the role of taped recordings being a prominent feature in government’s modus operandi, one has a right to question whether racial or partisan politics will influence the information gathering activities of the state’s intelligence unit that is getting a $225 million boost.
Mr. Editor, for a government that relies on taped recordings to go after people, this government is yet to obtain from US authorities all information recorded in a court of law in the trial of Roger Khan’s lawyer. Government had promised to use that information to help the Guyana police launch their own probe of Khan’s drug smuggling and other criminal activities, but government seems noticeably unwilling to obtain those taped court recordings.
Actually, it seems like not all taped recordings work in government’s favour!
Clearly, though, when a criminally corrupt government can find itself either battling outside criminal elements or accusing persons of criminal or treasonous activities, it has to ask itself if its own behaviour is not creating the environment that is conducive for such reactions. Not that plotting to overthrow the regime should be taken lightly.
Then again, given the emerging trend of a dictatorial government, trumped up charges could also be seen as an excuse for a political plan that could delay or deny 2011 elections or worse. This is why I challenge the government to make the unedited recordings of these latest accused persons public, and I also challenge lawyers for the defendants to obtain copies of the unedited recordings for overseas experts to conduct voice analyses.
Meanwhile, anyone remembered what happened to the last set of tapes government sent overseas for voice analyses?